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Knights rally for thrilling semifinal victory
Ripon Christian’s Steve Vander Molen draws a foul on Bradshaw Christian defender Orion Kidd. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
GALT — The Ghost of Galt High was finally vanquished by Ripon Christian’s boys basketball team, which came from behind to stun Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento 63-62 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V semifinal round Tuesday.

The No. 2 Knights (22-6) were eliminated in the semifinal round at Galt three straight years from 2005-07. It took a gutty team effort and a big-time performance from Daniel Van de Pol exorcize the demons that haunted them in the past while knocking off the defending section champion Pride (22-8).

Van de Pol poured in 23 points to lead all players.

Ripon Christian will go after the program’s 10th all-time section championship Friday when it takes on top-seeded Victory Christian of Carmichael at Arco Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

“We’ve had these (close games) here before and haven’t had them go our way,” Ripon Christian coach Ron Vander Molen said. “It was very satisfying to see the players pull it out the way they did.

“It wasn’t anything tactical coaching-wise, it was the players who stepped up and made the plays. It wasn’t about execution of the plays I called; it was about them getting the job done.”

Van de Pol hit the shot of the game, and Logan Vos buried the free throws that decided it.

Vos (15 points, six rebounds, four assists) gave RC the lead for good with 9 seconds left. Third-seeded Bradshaw called timeout with 6.3 seconds remaining but didn’t get a shot off after J.J. Mina’s errant pass from the left wing led to a backcourt violation with 1.2 seconds to go.

“Our coach stresses that we practice free throws on our own so that when we get in a game, no matter what the situation is, it’s second nature to us,” Vos said. “Of course I was nervous with the game on the line, but you just have to get over that and knock them down.”

It took a lot of grit and clutch plays down the stretch for RC to set up Vos’ winning free throws.

Bradshaw’s superior speed and energy staggered RC at the start, mounting an 11-2 run to end the first quarter with a 17-6 lead.

The Knights couldn’t make Bradshaw pay for concentrating its defensive efforts on 6-foot-8 center Tyler Goslinga, RC’s season leading scorer with 20-plus points per game, and were still down double digits, 26-14, at the midway point of the second quarter.

Ripon Christian showed signs of life at the end of the half with a 6-0 spurt capped by a pivotal sequence highlighted by Van de Pol between the 3-point arcs.

Mina inbounded the ball from Bradshaw’s own baseline, but it was intercepted by Van de Pol on the other end of the court.

“I knew I had time to pull up (for a shot),” Van de Pol said. “I made my decision the second I got the ball.”

And he hit the shot from dead center with 2.5 seconds left. Ripon Christian still trailed, 29-24, going into halftime, but Bradshaw lost control of the game.

“It got us in the game,” Vander Molen said. “It allowed me to say, ‘We’re only down 5 and we’re in this thing.’

“I thought Van de Pol stepped up big time. He’s had trouble with pressure in the past and he took charge offensively. They shut down Tyler, and Daniel just took it upon himself to score. That was the difference.”

With Van de Pol and Vos hitting from the outside, it opened things up for Goslinga inside in the second half when he scored all 16 of his points to go with nine rebounds and three blocks. He gave RC its first lead of the game, 38-37, with 2:45 left.

That was the first of seven lead changes in the second half. The score was knotted at 43 going into the final period.

The rest of RC’s starting five, senior guards Isaac Norman and Steve Vander Molen, also made significant contributions, more so on the defensive end. Norman finished with six steals, including one that led to a breakaway layup that tied it at 55 with 3:26 remaining.

Vander Molen chipped in seven points, six in the fourth quarter, while making Mina, Bradshaw’s top player, work for his shots. Mina ended up with 18 points, nine rebounds and five steals.

Brady Dragmire added 17 points for the Pride, and Orion Kidd had 11.

“Since the end of last season and for all of this season we’ve been chanting ‘Arco,’” Goslinga said. “It’s every kid’s dream to be able to play in Arco Arena, and now that it’s actually going to happen while getting a shot at the section title is a great feeling.
“We’ll enjoy it, but we have to go back to work and prepare for whomever we play.”